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Alex reacts to Tees Valley devolution deal

Commenting on this morning’s announcement of a devolution deal for the Tees Valley, Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, said:

“This is potentially good news for the Tees Valley and it should be welcomed, if with some caution.  I understand why the Combined Authorities are signing the deal and it could bring real benefits to the area if it results in an additional £15 million a year.

“The deal has, however, to be set in context.  It comes at a time when our five local councils have seen their budgets cut by nearly half in the last five years, and are still facing further huge cuts over the next few years – considerably more than £15 million.  I understand that Stockton alone will see next year’s budget cut by £6 million – and that is just one of the five councils involved.

“Ministers have come up with a big number by “agreeing” a 30 year deal – and in reality it means little beyond the life of the current Government and even then all funding is subject to stringent reviews.

“It also comes at a time when Further Education budgets are suffering disproportionate cuts, and as an Area Review of the colleges which could lead to recommendations to rationalise them.  If the Combined Authorities are to have the powers to commission FE, Government needs to step back and let the future of our colleges be determined locally.

“An elected mayor is imposed as part of the deal – something never wanted by most of our communities.  I only hope that local people engage with the process and we don’t see the poor turnouts associated with Police and Crime Commissioners which saw fewer than one in five people vote.”